Crime dramas get great mileage out of allying their stories with the themes of William Shakespeare. And why not? Has there been an author who so strongly aligns the themes of man and culture alongside characters so gripped with pain, suffering, and remorse? The problem is – and this is the dirty little secret – not every crime drama merits such comparisons. Some of them, as a matter of fact, end up feeling more like a modern day soap opera than they do an exploration of human conflict. Such is the case with DRAGONWOLF.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “The Devil’s Cauldron – a city of depravity and violence, where only the lethal survive. Two hit men rule these streets, feared by all but loyal to one another. When a beautiful woman seduces them both, they turn on each other, igniting an epic battle that may bring the city to the brink of destruction.”
Now, that plot descriptions sounds pretty solid, doesn’t it? Yeah. The problem lies in the fact that DRAGONWOLF doesn’t really feature all that many epic battle sequences in the slightest. It opens with plenty of fisticuffs, and it closes with the same, but the truth here is that they’re staged so corny that it’s hard to really get all that involved, worked up, or interested in any of them. Writer/director Raimund Huber has gone to great lengths to try to fashion what he honestly believed would be some deep and meaningful examination of the criminal’s soul. Truth is? It ain’t.
There’s no reason to really belabor the point here, but I think a few justifications for my assessment are in order. First, Huber’s two stars – Patrick Kazu Tang as Mozart and Johan Kirsten as Julius – don’t have the talent to project any real depth onto these characters. They’re childhood friends thrown together out of circumstances; and, as they grow up, they’ve grown accustomed to taking good care of one another. Huber punctuates DRAGONWOLF with narrative flashbacks which show their attempts to get into one another’s heads; but it’s all handled with little to no explanation on the part of the filmmaking. Breaking up the plot with a flashback while not telling the audience that a flashback is being inserted here makes the film hard to follow; granted, you eventually figure it all out, but you shouldn’t HAVE to figure out the story.
Also, the tale doesn’t so much serve the action as it would seem that the plot was little more than a device to string these fight sequences together. Given that you know all of this is supposed to be building to some inevitable showdown between ‘the best of friends,’ the pace of the film is robbed of any legitimate dramatic tension. Sure, the fight scenes are choreographed pretty well, but these villains are so ‘stock’ in creation they may have well been marionettes. There’s a noticeable lack of chemistry to all of it.
Without trying to some apologetic, DRAGONWOLF has some nice ideas at work in there. Julius ends up saving Mozart (when they’re young) from living a life of total abandonment on the streets of the Devil’s Cauldron. Somewhere along the way, Mozart made himself an ally (there’s a side story involving a young girl who finds herself about to be sacrificed by thugs, and he comes to her rescue); but it’s all sorely handled so predictably none of it has any real teeth to it.
Had Huber dialed back the literary metaphors – i.e. Devil’s Cauldron, Mozart, Julius, etc. – and had he opted for a much tighter cut (at 122 minutes, even these pauses were given pauses!), then DRAGONWOLF may’ve been something special. But in its current working draft? No way. The fact that everyone seems to be ‘acting’ under the influence of Ambien kept any momentum from being developed.
DRAGONWOLF (2013) is produced by Motionpictures. DVD distribution is being handled by the reliable Well Go USA Entertainment. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is an English spoken language release despite being produced in Thailand. As for the technical specifications? Well, it looks and sounds pretty solid, though much of the cinematography is surprisingly uninspired for something with so many fight sequences. Lastly, there are no special features.
(MILDLY) RECOMMENDED. I can appreciate a good crime thriller as much as anyone can, and on many levels DRAGONWOLF certainly had a solid chance to become a good crime thriller. Methinks the problem was a bit of overkill with the script – writer/director Huber tries to layer on Shakespearean conflict way too liberally – and never pushed his actors to actually emote. Consequently, the audience is left to figure out far too much in this conventional revenge picture.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Well Go USA Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy of DRAGONWOLF by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
About the reviewer
What? You don't know enough about me from the picture? Get a clue! I'm a graduate from the School of Hard Knocks! You can find me around the web as "Trekscribbler" or "Manchops". … more